Hybrid vehicles get an estimated 54 miles per gallon. EPA-estimated electric mileages equivalent (MPH-e) is 133 miles per hour.
Panasonic just unveiled an improved solar panel, called a HIT™ Photovoltaic Module for Automobil, which extends the life of a car’s main battery. Their first attempt was to outfit a Prius with a solar panel in 2009. It was capable of producing 56 watts of power, only enough to charge the ventilation system, not the car’s battery. It will be the first mass-produced model to be outfitted with solar panels that provides juice for the car’s main battery.
According to Toyota, the addition of the new solar panel will increase the Prius’ efficiency by up to 10 percent. In ideal conditions, the battery will add 2.2 miles of electric range. “That means you get about 10 percent of annual mileage from solar just by letting your car sit,” according to Shingo Okamoto, the general manager at Panasonic who was in charge of developing the technology.
The solar outfitted Prius is still unavailable in the US since the material used for the solar panels have yet to pass US crash tests. But the manufacturer is already working on a solution.
“We are aware that the panels are supplying only a small amount of electricity,” said Shoichi Kaneko, chief engineer for Prius. “But this system is still a breakthrough as we are making use of the energy we would be wasting otherwise. By filling all available space with cells, it is possible to extend the range easily to 6.2 miles.”
While the increase is modest, developers say the amount of charge will will improve over time and that the range could be extended by adjusting a car body design and the amount of surface upon which the panels can be affixed.
Elon Musk, developer of the Tesla, is not going to be left behind. He announced the Tesla Model 3 may also feature a solar roof option. It makes sense because Panasonic has already been providing Tesla with solar and battery cells.